ClickCease

Side Effects Of Modafinil Abuse

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Modafinil isn’t likely to cause an addiction. Compared to other substances, modafinil offers people some of the lowest chances of developing a dependency. Even so, some people are more likely to misuse the medication because they have had substance use disorders in the past. If this is the case for you or a loved one, give us a call at the Granite Recovery Centers today.

Physicians prescribe modafinil to treat the following conditions:

Narcolepsy

When a person has narcolepsy, the brain has difficulties controlling the body’s sleep-wake cycles. After they wake up in the morning, people with this disorder may feel as if they got a good night’s sleep, but they will begin to feel sleepy throughout the day. They may wake up several times throughout the night without the ability to sleep for a long period of time.

Modafinil is the first medication that physicians usually prescribe for narcolepsy. Doctors prefer this medication because it has a low potential for causing an addiction and doesn’t have as many side effects as other medicines.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

People can experience shift work sleep disorder, or SWSD, when they work the night shift, the split shift, the graveyard shift, rotating shifts or early morning shifts. When people do not have the opportunity to sleep for eight hours at night, they tend to feel sleepy when they need to be awake, and they feel as if they are not obtaining the rejuvenating sleep that they receive when they sleep traditional hours.

This occurs because non-traditional work hours interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm influences the natural changes that take place physically, mentally and behaviorally during a 24-hour period. The human circadian rhythm has a biological clock that regulates the timing of these changes. The master clock is located in a human’s brain, so medication that stimulates the brain can help individuals stay awake when they need to be.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When people have obstructive sleep apnea, their breathing often stops during the night while they are sleeping because they have airways that are narrow or blocked. Because all of a person’s muscles relax during sleep, the airways tend to become blocked. Most of the time, a person’s throat will remain open so that air can pass through, but if the tissues are able to close, breathing stops in what is called “apnea,” leading to fatigue during waking hours. Modafinil is sometimes prescribed to help patients with sleep apnea stay awake during the day.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia

With idiopathic hypersomnia, people tend to be very sleepy throughout the day. This condition interferes with their daily lives because it causes them to fall asleep at inappropriate times. It is very hard for them to wake up after they take a nap during the day or wake up in the morning after a full night’s sleep. When these people try to get more sleep at night, it doesn’t appear to improve the disorder.

How Modafinil Works

Researchers are constantly studying modafinil to better understand exactly how the medication stimulates the central nervous system. It is a medication that appears to be similar to amphetamines, but it works in a different way.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that nerve cells in the brain release for the purpose of sending messages to other nerve cells. This job gives it the name of “chemical messenger.” Dopamine helps human beings experience pleasure and gives us the ability to make plans and think about things.

Serotonin is a chemical that is produced by the nerve cells, and it exists mainly in the digestive system. Serotonin is essential in many bodily functions, such as mood regulation, and it is one of the things that helps human beings sleep.

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter and hormone as well. When human beings have a norepinephrine deficiency, it results in sleep disorders.

Modafinil works on the neurotransmitters listed above. It focuses on some dopamine transporter channels and not others, so it is a selective dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Because the medicine disrupts some of these dopamine channels, it has the effect of slowing the reuptake of dopamine. This allows more dopamine to remain in the brain so that it can be more effective. An increase in dopamine increases a person’s concentration, motivation and focus. The medication also increases the activity of serotonin in the brain.

Side Effects of Modafinil Use

When taking modafinil, people may experience several side effects, including the following:

  • Pain in the eyes or difficulty seeing
  • Skin that tingles, burns or feels numb
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Confusion
  • Back pain
  • Tight muscles
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Nosebleeds
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Unusual tastes in the mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Potential for Abuse

Modafinil is classified as a Schedule IV drug on the Schedule of Controlled Substances. As such, it has a low potential for abuse, according to the U.S. Federal Drug Enforcement Agency. It is only likely to be addictive for a very small number of people. The medicine also presents a low risk of causing dependence.

Modafinil’s biochemical mechanisms act like those of stimulants that can cause addictions, and some animal studies have demonstrated the potential for rodents to become addicted to modafinil. Human beings are not likely to develop an addiction for modafinil, but it is possible for them to develop a dependence on the drug. Some people have reported withdrawal symptoms when they stopped taking the medication. These withdrawal symptoms included lethargy, insomnia and anxiety. They also reported experiencing anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure.

Research confirmed the fact that modafinil may cause people to take the drug habitually. Physicians advise their patients not to take more modafinil than they prescribe in each dose. They also advise against their patients taking modafinil after their physicians stop prescribing it for them. Even so, some people misuse modafinil, and it can have serious consequences for them.

Modafinil Overdose

People experiencing an overdose on modafinil may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • A heartbeat that is either slow, fast or pounding
  • A body part that shakes uncontrollably
  • Nervousness
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep

The Long-Term Effects of Modafinil

Taking modafinil over a long period of time may have the effect of creating a psychological and physical dependence on the drug. However, this seems to be unlikely in most people unless they are taking large doses of modafinil or misusing it. Most people are not misusing modafinil; the exceptions are those with a history of substance use disorder. When the majority of people stop taking modafinil, they are not likely to experience any withdrawal symptoms.

The Misuse of Modafinil

People might use modafinil and the medication known as Provigil in a manner that was not approved by the FDA. This is misusing the medication. For example, some people take Provigil to treat ADHD, but the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend that people do this.

People also misuse Provigil or modafinil as a weight loss supplement. These medications have weight loss as a side effect, so some people take it solely for this reason. However, physicians do not recommend taking modafinil unless they are being treated for a sleep disorder as described above. These drugs have the potential to cause people to abuse them or become dependent upon them.

Physicians do not prescribe Provigil or modafinil for anxiety, but some people are misusing the medications for this purpose. These people claim that Provigil calms them down, makes it possible for them to focus and makes them feel confident when they are in a stressful setting. People also use these medications to treat performance anxiety and social anxiety, but this is a misuse of these drugs. In fact, some people have reported that these drugs increase their anxiety symptoms or make them worse.

People are more likely to abuse Provigil or modafinil if they have experienced a substance use disorder in the past. This can occur because the medications increase their ability to focus, and the drug may also change their moods. In rare instances, people even begin to experience euphoria on these medications.

Tolerance of Modafinil

When most people are taking modafinil, they tolerate the medication well even when taking high doses. They typically do not develop a tolerance for the drug, so their physicians do not have to increase the dose over the years.

Clinical trials for modafinil demonstrate the issue further. In one trial, test subjects took 1,200 mgs of modafinil each day for 21 days. They reported that they didn’t experience very many side effects. Researchers also administered 4,500 mgs to these same subjects, and they didn’t experience any dangerous side effects. The test subjects did experience some side effects, and these included nausea, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, nervousness, agitation, irritability, confusion, anxiety, insomnia and heart palpitations.

In some cases, patients have experienced psychiatric reactions when they were taking normal doses, and these psychiatric reactions were negative. They occurred whether the patient had a history of mental illness or not. Others experienced skin rashes when taking modafinil.

Treatment for Dependence on Modafinil

Modafinil does not typically cause a physical dependence, so a person psychologically addicted to modafinil will not necessarily experience any withdrawal symptoms. It’s unlikely that you will have to go through the detoxification process. However, psychological dependence can be treated in a drug treatment center.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we can treat your psychological dependence on modafinil in our treatment program. We offer group counseling, individual counseling and several other types of therapy. After you complete the treatment process, we also have an aftercare program if you are uncomfortable with the idea of returning to an unsupportive home environment after your treatment is over.

If you were misusing Provigil as a way to self-medicate your anxiety away, we can treat your anxiety with medications approved for the treatment of anxiety along with your substance use disorder. At Granite Recovery Centers, we provide a dual-diagnosis treatment program that treats any mental health disorders you currently have at the same time that we treat your substance use disorder. Because both of these disorders interact with each other and make it harder to treat your substance misuse, we need to make sure that we address both. Our goal is to help you overcome your substance use disorder and your mental health disorder at the same time.

If you are looking for help for your loved one or you need help yourself, contact us at Granite Recovery Centers.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.